Bitcoin has caught the attention of liberal writers who argue the digital crypto-currency is contributing to global warming.
Vox and The New Republic (TNR) have pieces out highlighting the massive amounts of energy it takes to mine Bitcoins, most of which comes from fossil fuels. Most Bitcoins are mined in China, fueled by cheap coal power.
TNR’s Emily Atkin wrote that “Bitcoins are contributing to the warming of the atmosphere without providing a significant public benefit in return,” adding “[w]e only have 32 years left for carbon emissions to peak and then rapidly decrease, if our planet is to remain livable.”
Bitcoin has surged in value in recent years, hitting $11,000 per digital coin. The currency was created by programmers in 2009 as an alternative to government-controlled currencies.
Bitcoin can be used in exchanges, and businesses are starting to accept it in place of traditional currency. People aren’t really using it, though.
Atkins sees Bitcoin as an environmental scourge that needs to be gotten rid of since “buying a Bitcoin is no different than investing in an unpredictable stock on NASDAQ, but the cost to the planet is immeasurably worse.”
Individual computers can mine bitcoins, but as the algorithm used to generate coins becomes more complex, some users are using thousands of advanced hardware in warehouses, mostly in China.
Vox Umair Irfan noted that “mining Bitcoin is a hugely energy-intensive process, even though the currency only exists digitally.” Bitcoin mining uses more energy than some countries, Irfan reported.
“That’s on par with the energy use of the entire country of Morocco, more than 19 European countries, and roughly 0.7 percent of total energy demand in the United States, equal to 2.8 million US households,” Irfan wrote.
To Atkin and other environmentalists, Bitcoin is using too much energy for little to no public good.
“We don’t have time or resources to waste on Bitcoin,” Atkin wrote.
It should be noted that Bitcoin only makes up a small portion of global energy use, despite being larger than some countries.
In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, Morocco contributes about 0.16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The 19 European Union countries together contribute an equally small amount.
Eliminating Bitcoin wouldn’t even begin to make a dent in fighting global warming — or at least in terms of what the United Nations says needs to be done.
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